60. Eduardo Mata, Dallas Symphony, 1987

Holst - The Planets (Mata, Dallas Symphony, 1987)


This is a splendid “Mars”. I was going to try and describe it, but The Who have done it for me: It’s meaty beaty big and bouncy. The sound quality is fairly full in the low mid-range area, but I like the reverberation in the hall they used for the recording (get a load of the reverb at the end of the first orchestral death throe in “Mars”, 7:11 – it is monumentally magnificent). It sounds like the hall used was enormous, but it doesn’t adversely affect how I enjoy the music – quite the opposite. I think the reverberation (in this recording anyway) actually assists my response to the music.

In “Venus” it certainly does. The music is wrapped in a halo of sound. It’s lovely. What’s slightly less than lovely is the solo violin from 2:24-2:35. It sounds like it’s in a bit of a hurry. But it is still very nice. (I’m trying to look at the overall picture of Eddie’s “Venus”, not just solo violin parts.) After the solo violin thingy, at 2:35, the horns don’t come in all that cleanly, but it’s no biggie. This really is a very nice “Venus”. 3:09-3:18 has some dodgy intonation from the violin guys’n’gals, but I’m happy to overlook that because of how much I’m enjoying this “Venus”. The second solo violin part (3:29) is a little slower than it was the first time, more in line with the ‘standard’ tempo for this part of “Venus”. But I’m getting used to Mata Harry’s approach to this movement. I get where’s he’s coming from. Fast Eddy doesn’t want it to linger. I can dig it, baby. And now that “Venus” has finished, I can say it was mighty, mighty good.

“Mercury” is excellent. I’ve only listened to the first 30 seconds of it, but those first 30 seconds are so magnificent that I immediately felt compelled to make that announcement. “Mercury” has now finished, and it was excellent.

“Jupiter” has just started, and it evoked thoughts I’ve never had before when listening to “Jupiter”. The combination of broad tempos and spacious sound quality (big hall reverberation here) made me feel as if I was looking over the green hills of rural England. The Big Tune (3:30-5:48) is played very slowly, but the aforementioned combination of “What’s the hurry?” and “Wow, this is a big cave” is perfect for the music at this particular point in the movement – and in this particular place in the entire suite. I dare say a fair amount of disgruntled listeners would find that tempo to be too slow, but as I’m listening I’m more than fine with it. Unfortunately, there’s a horn mistake at 3:58, but because I’m enjoying this part of “Jupiter” so much that I see the mistake as “Eh, that was nothin'” and keep listening. (There’s also a violin that stays a little out of tune while holding a note from 4:09-4:11, but I prefer to not pay attention to it. I’m enjoying this movement enormously, and don’t want anything to spoil it.) The rest of “Jupiter” continues on its leisurely way, and it’s lovely.

“Saturn”, on t’other hand, is good. I was a little sad that I didn’t respond to it in quite the same way as I had with “Jupiter”, but this “Saturn” is as fine as fine can be for a performance that isn’t great. Unfortunately, there’s some wobbly intonation from the horns near the end of the orchestra’s slow and heavy tread as it gets louder and louder (5:59-6:11). But apart from that, “Saturn” does what it does.

With “Uranus”, I’m afraid the large hall sound is unhelpful here. It makes all of the jumpity-jump playing of the orchestra get obscured by the echo of the hall resonating while the orchestra’s still playing. I think classical music critics call that sound “smeary”. (I don’t know what classical music critics are on about half the time. For example, they’ll describe a sound as having “bloom”. What on Earth does “bloom” sound like?) But I think it’s a good performance of “Uranus”.

Now, this cavernous sound should suit “Neptune” down to the ground (or, maybe, “up to the sky”). Yep. It sounds nice and mysterious. A part of me wants to say “Oooooooooooooooooooo” in a ghostly voice – but that’s not going to help anyone, so I won’t. This “Neptune” has mystery by the oooooo-load. (Note to Self: Just say it has “plenty of mystery”, Peter.) I’m exceedingly pleased to say the choir starts singing imperceptibly (it really is imperceptible – it starts somewhere around 5:00, but that’s a rough guess). The singing of the choir is fabulous. It’s magical. And later on (at 5:56), when the choir starts singing “properly” (i.e., when you can hear them clearly), it’s even more magical. This is a good choir.

And this was a fairly good-ish performance of Those Planets Over There.


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